Interview: the president of Kushimoto Turkish Culture Association, Ayşegül Ito

It will always be remembered in the history of Turkish maritime that the fate of the Ertuğrul Frigate which is sent on a mission to Far East in 1889, had an important role in the development of Turkish-Japanese relations.

Resim: Yaoki Yashiro Archive


On July 14th, 1889, the students of the Naval School started the journey to Japan Sea in order to learn how to use their theoretical knowledge at sea. They completed their mission in Japan. While waiting for a suitable condition to go back, they decided to leave from the Port of Yokohama on September 15th, 1890, to avoid further casualties from the cholera outbreak in the area. However, on September 16, due to the typhoon they caught on their way to Kobe, the ship was sunk by crashing to the rocks near the Kashinozaki Lighthouse. (74 people survived and 531 martyrs in Japanese waters. **) 

Today, I would like to introduce you to someone who shares the importance of Turkish-Japanese relations with the young generations and everyone who is curious about it in the town of Kushimoto, where the Ertuğrul Frigate Martyrdom and Memorial are located. She is the president of the Kushimoto Turkish Culture Association, Ayşegül Ito.

Kushimoto municipality Japan - Turkish Friendship mascot Magutoru-kun and Mrs. Ayşegül Ito

Burcu: Mrs. Ito Welcome to my page! Can you briefly tell us about yourself?

Aysegül Ito: My name is Aysegül. I am from Aydın, Turkey. I graduated from the Ankara University, Faculty of Language, History and Geography, Department of Japanese Language and Literature. After graduation, I worked in a Japanese-Turkish partnered company in Istanbul. Then, in April 2015, I started to work as the first Turk in Kushimoto Municipality. I married with a Japanese man in 2017, and in April 2018 I quit from my job because of my pregnancy. Now I look after my baby and I am the president of the association.

Resim: Yaoki Yashiro Archive

 

Burcu: Can you tell us about the Turkish Culture Center?

Photo:https://www.facebook.com/Kushimoto.Turkey

Aysegül Ito: Turkish Cultural Center was opened on 16th of September 2018 with the honors of our Tokyo Ambassador, Mr. Hasan Murat Mercan and Mr. Muhammed Aras, Imam of the Tokyo Mosque. In fact, our building is an old building right in front of the Turkish Museum, we always wanted to use this building, but the renovation would be very costly so we could not start. Our former president told this idea to our ambassador. Our ambassador immediately helped. Turkish craftsmen working in Nagoya came to renovate the building with their own hands, painted the kitchen and made a center for us. We opened the center at the same day with the Ertuğrul Frigate Commemoration Ceremonies.

 
Photo:https://www.facebook.com/Kushimoto.Turkey

We sell handmade braids, lace, Turkish tea and Turkish fruit juices in Turkish center. We also exhibit old antiques and Turkish lamps which were sent from the embassy.

Photo:https://www.facebook.com/Kushimoto.Turkey

Burcu: Which activities can Japanese people who are curious about the Turkish culture, attend at the association and at the center? 

Photo:https://www.facebook.com/Kushimoto.Turkey

Aysegül Ito: The members of the association are opening the Turkish Cultural Center on holidays. But it may not be open every week from Saturday to Sunday. The open hours are 10:00-15:00. We share the open days of each month on our Facebook page. So before you come, look at our facebook page, we would appreciate it. If requested in advance, our members can do tourist guidance.


Photo:https://www.facebook.com/Kushimoto.Turkey

In the past years, we have had cooking classes and Turkish language courses every month. However, we do not currently have any active courses. We do not have a folk dance course either, but we dance with the old team for once in every two weeks on Sundays.

Photo:https://www.facebook.com/Kushimoto.Turkey

  We can consider opening a course if demand arises in the future.

Photo:https://www.facebook.com/Kushimoto.Turkey

  Burcu: Does The Turkish Culture Center organize any exhibitions or festivals? 


Photo:https://www.facebook.com/Kushimoto.Turkey

Ayşegül Ito: Yes, we organize festivals or events. Also, We have a “simit” car. We also participate in events and sell simit.

Photo:https://www.facebook.com/Kushimoto.Turkey

Burcu: Which events do you participate as Kushimoto Turkish culture Association?

Photo:https://www.facebook.com/Kushimoto.Turkey

Ayşegül Ito: There are certain events in the year we participate. For example; at the end of January every year we go to the fire festival. In this festival, we are performing the Mersin Region Folk Dances. Again, we perform folk dances at summer festivals every year. In addition, we participate in various activities.

Burcu: What can people do to support or how to contribute to the Kushimoto Turkish culture association?

 
Photo:https://www.facebook.com/Kushimoto.Turkey

Photo:https://www.facebook.com/Kushimoto.Turkey

 

Ayşegül Ito: People who want to support our association can reach us from facebook. They can do things like events or workshops that can promote Turkey, or they can send the items they make with their own hands.

Photo: Yaoki Yashiro Archive

Burcu: Could you tell us about the Turkish Museum located near the Turkish Culture Center?

Photo: Yaoki Yashiro Archive

Aysegül Ito: The Turkish Museum is a museum of the Municipality of Kushimoto. It is decorated with beautiful tulip motifs outside of the museum building. It is a museum where you can learn the history of the Ertuğrul Frigate and the history of Turkish-Japanese friendship.

Photo: Yaoki Yashiro Archive

Burcu: At which accounts people can follow your activities such as festivals, courses, film screenings?

 
Photo:https://www.facebook.com/Kushimoto.Turkey

Aysegül Ito: Our most active page is our facebook page.

As Kushimoto Turkish Culture Association, they can find us immediately.

We want many people to like our page.

 
A city friend with Turkey, Kushimoto - Photo: Yaoki Yashiro Archive

Burcu: Finally, can you share your impressions of the people in Kushimoto?

Ayşegül Ito: Before coming to Kushimoto, I loved the place I worked at. It was very difficult for me to leave my job and come to Kushimoto, but since the day I came here, everyone has always been so helpful to me, so warm that I started to say, 'Good thing that I came here'. The people of Kushimoto really love the Turks. They never lost their sincerity and warmth from 129 years ago. 



Photo:https://www.facebook.com/Kushimoto.Turkey

 

 Every Turkish person who comes here is going back by praising its people.

I would like every Turk who travels to Japan, visit here. Every person who comes here gets the feeling that they are in their own countries. I want everyone to feel it.

Photo: Yaoki Yashiro Archive

 
Photo:Yaoki Yashiro Archive

Burcu: Thank you for the interview.

Ayşegül Ito: Thank you.

**The information was obtained from the book called Ertuğrul, which was published in memory of the Ertuğrul Frigate in the 125th anniversary of the Ertuğrul Frigate’s voyage.

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